Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body – for some this pain may be debilitating. It mainly affects women between the ages of 20 and 50 years of age and is characterised by chronic, widespread, severe muscular aching, pain and stiffness. Around 70 – 90% of people with this condition will also experience insomnia, fatigue, headaches and difficulty concentrating. Many will also experience impaired sleep, memory and mood issues. Clearly fibromyalgia has a huge negative impact on the quality of life of people with this condition.
There is currently no Western medical explanation or cure for this fibromyalgia
If you have been given a diagnosis of fibromyalgia please do not give up – Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a long track record of helping people with many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia that goes back thousands of years…and it can help. In this article we will discuss fibromyalgia from a TCM perspective and explain our approach when treating this complex condition.
How does TCM view fibromyalgia?
According to TCM our vital energy force – or Qi, and our Blood, need to flow freely through the body’s meridians, or energy channels in order for us to experience optimal health. When this flow is impeded we can experience a variety of symptoms – including pain. At GinSen we relate a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia to problems with the smooth flowing of Qi and stagnant Blood. There may be a number of reasons for this including a deficiency in the amount of available Qi which is unable to make its way through the system of energy – Meridians – as it flows throughout the body. A poor flow of Qi is unable to sufficiently energise the blood which then goes on to coagulate and pool around the body – leading to yet more problems.
Why does this happen?
Intense emotions such as anger and anxiety can block the smooth flow of Qi and blood in the meridians of the Liver. Infection and prolonged exposure to excess cold, heat, or humidity can cause blockages along the Spleen system of meridians and this further impedes the flow. Working too hard not eating enough good quality food and not taking sufficient time to rest further deplete our reserves of Qi reserves, leaving the meridians depleted – and us feeling exhausted and in pain.
How about acupuncture for fibromyalgia?
Acupuncture treatment is very helpful at treating the symptoms of fibromyalgia. When you receive acupuncture for fibromyalgia your practitioner will focus on three main areas of concern:
- Restoring levels of Qi
- Boosting the flow of Blood
- Dispelling Cold and Damp
Luckily this can be done using the most gentle and relaxing of treatments! Acupuncture, moxibustion, natural Chinese herbs and massage are all excellent at helping your body to recover.
When you receive acupuncture treatment you can expect points to be added to the top of your shin, at the point just below your knee. This is a very famous point called Leg Three Miles (or Stomach 36) and it has the ability to build up energy levels and to help to raise low mood. Sometimes this point will be warmed up through the use of a herb called Mugwort which creates a profoundly relaxing mood that helps with sleep.
You may also receive a needle in a point on the Large Intestine channel called Joining of the Valleys. This point is located on the upper side of your hand just slightly up from where the bones of the thumb (your metacarpal bone if we want to get scientific!) joins the bones of your index finger. This is a classic pain relief point and your acupuncturist can show you how to activate it in between treatments. Please do not activate this point if you are pregnant.
Your acupuncture practitioner will also be able to advise on relaxation techniques, provide dietary advice as well as recommend some gentle exercises that you can try to help – think yoga, meditation and gentle walking in the park as opposed to high intensity workouts. We are trying to help you to wind down and relax – and in doing so things will start to fall into a happier rhythm – accompanied by you feeling more healthy and in charge of you health.
What is the evidence base for this?
There is a very large body of high quality evidence to suggest that acupuncture for fibromyalgia treatment is helpful. Very large scale and high quality studies show that:
- Acupuncture is probably better than non-acupuncture treatment in reducing pain and stiffness and improving overall well-being and fatigue. Take time to read that sentence again – if you have been given a diagnosis of fibromyalgia we hope that this will bring you some hope and comfort.
- Acupuncture with electrical stimulation improves overall well-being, sleep and fatigue
- Acupuncture probably enhances the effect of drugs and exercise on pain
How often do I need to have TCM treatment in order for it to be effective?
We always work on a case by case basis. Everyone is treated as an individual and there is no such thing as a standardised treatment in TCM. As a rule of thumb we would suggest acupuncture treatment twice per week. The effect of this treatment can be magnified by Chinese herbal therapy that has been prescribed by an experienced TCM practitioner. At GinSen we recognise the importance of taking time to listen to our fibromyalgia patients and offer a sensitive and confidential ear to your troubles.
What about Chinese Herbs? Can I take them if I have fibromyalgia?
As many people with fibromyalgia are very sensitive and experience digestive problems it is important that the herbs you take are of very high purity and quality. We can help to point you in the right direction. In the meantime, why not try…
Ginger and Turmeric. Frequently found in our everyday kitchen cupboards, these naturally growing roots have anti-inflammatory properties and many other benefits. Try to incorporate ginger and turmeric into your meals or you can take then in the form of supplements. Turmeric is well known to reduce joint pain and ginger has anti inflammatory and anti nausea benefits. Try slice of these natural roots in a glass of hot water instead of your usual cup of black tea and you may be pleasantly surprised.
Ginkgo biloba is extracted from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree and is known for its memory and concentration boosting benefits. If your fibromyalgia makes you feel forgetful or dizzy this is an ideal herb for you to try. In addition Ginkgo biloba improves the circulation of your Blood and this in turn will help your body to feel much better.
For more information about how Chinese Medicine can help you with fibromyalgia, book your free consultation with our Chinese Medicine experts today
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We can’t guarantee the treatment result, as the symptoms of conditions are unpredictable and vary greatly from person to person. The treatment length and recovery time also varies for individual. Please visit our clinics website: GinSen where a specialists will discuss your care and provide a consultation, and the treatment will be designed to meet your individual needs.